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Wednesday, 29 November 2017

VBT, INTERVIEW & #GIVEAWAY - Shadows, Shells, and Spain by John Meyer


Travel Fiction



John Meyer's "Shadows, Shells, and Spain" is a thrilling new adventure where a husband desperately searches for his missing wife along the ancient Camino trail across northern Spain. It’s also a bold, new take on a modern-day pilgrimage that feeds the mind and soul of every character while testing the limits of their bodies... and their comfort zones.

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The only nugget of information I ever received, however, was from her mother during a particularly frustrating phone conversation in early October.

“I’m going to ask you again: where did she go?”

“I haven’t the foggiest.”

“You must know something. She tells you everything.”

“Ha! That’s what you think.”

“Well, maybe she doesn’t automatically tell you everything. But somehow you nag it out of her.”

“I do not nag.”

“Where is she? Her work doesn’t know. Our friends don’t know. Even if you don’t know everything, Pam must have given you a clue at some point; you talked to her every day.”

“As did you—”

“Not since we separated in the summer and she moved into the guest room.”

“Honestly, Jamie; I don’t know a thing.”

“Was it Bora Bora? She always wanted to go to Bora Bora.”

“I don’t know. Stop yelling.”

“Santorini? Was it Santorini?”

“Why take a Spanish class if you’re planning on going to Santorini—”

“Ah haaaa! ‘A Spanish class.’ So it’s Mallorca, then—of course! Wait…when did Pam take a Spanish class?”

“You’ll have to ask her! When you get to Mallorca!”

Her mother hung up. I fought with her for days over the phone and outside the door of her house (she wouldn’t let me in) about Pam’s whereabouts. She had conceded the island of Mallorca but wouldn’t reveal anything more. Pam was on the move and didn’t want to be disturbed.

When did you start writing and when did you finish your first book?
It all started when I was robbed in Rome back in 2004! Leaving my cramped hostel for a better hotel down the street, a thief somehow—magically—unzipped the pocket of my backpack where I had briefly stored my moneybelt. When I reached my hotel, two minutes later, the backpack zipper was wide open and the money belt was missing. My money, my credit card, my debit card, my plane ticket, and my passport were all gone!

Obviously, my trip was ruined. And after reporting the incident to the police, acquiring a temporary passport at my embassy, and receiving a cash advance from my bank, I returned home.

Then, as the weeks and months rolled by, I received something of an epiphany. I realized that my "stranger in a strange land" robbery story would make a great start of a book. I was looking for something more substantial to write beyond my regular TV job and I wanted it to combine my love for writing and travel. So I returned to Italy one year later and spent six glorious weeks researching Rome, the Amalfi Coast, and Siena. Then after a few starts and stops, I completed my first draft of my first book, Bullets, Butterflies, and Italy, three years later.

How did you choose the genre you write in?
I had always liked travel books. However, they were always non-fiction stories about a man or a woman climbing a mountain, or building a country home in Tuscany, or simply wandering through a foreign land. What they often lacked was intense drama and colourful characters and even higher stakes. The narrator either accomplished his or her task—or they didn't. That's it.

So I wanted to combine my favorite elements of a travel book and add a more personal adventure—even if it was a fictional one. That’s when I came up with my concept for something I called a fictional travel memoir. The fun part was that I would travel to these foreign countries and then use the characters I met, the experiences I had, and the challenges I faced to create a fictional story far greater than my own journey.

Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
Well, while I thought I was quite clever in expanding the genre of travel writing, I soon discovered that the book industry wasn't very receptive. When I first tried the traditional route of publishing and submitted my manuscript to several agents in town, the response was great... but ultimately inconclusive. The refrain was always the same, "So it's a fictional story set in a traditional non-fiction genre?" "Exactly!" "Yeah, well, that's going to be difficult to sell." "Why? Isn't it unique and innovative?" "Yeah, probably too innovative for us..."

Now what? Well, instead of trying to convince the establishment, I decided to learn how to self-publish my books. I did my research in the fall and by the winter I had calculated that I needed about ten months to go through all the development and business steps in bringing my first book to market.
The benefits (full control, no middle men, no long wait times between writing and publishing, 100% of the profits) currently outweigh the drawbacks (no marketing help, the need & wherewithal to hire an editor, a designer, and a printer)!

However, new problems arose when it came time to marketing the ebooks. No two ebook websites are identical and certainly no two ebook websites share the same categorization. So I slot them the best I can, often writing numerous emails to the website administrators to ask them to file them under both Fiction and Travel. Some website administrators are accommodating. Some are not. So I file them the best that I can.

What was your favourite book as a child?
J.R.R. Tolkein's The Hobbit. Now, of course, it was an enchanting story starring strange little hobbits and wise old wizards and evil dragons and everything magical and mystical a kid could ever imagine. But as a child I could already appreciate an epic journey with a clear goal and a satisfying ending. And the book contained maps. I could follow along! (Never mind the deadly clash between good and evil, I just liked the travel!)

Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?
Well, the main characters are purely imaginary, although Jamie Draper is certainly me to a large degree. I always write in the first person and I want to share my thoughts and conclusions about what I saw and experienced with my readers.

So the traveling parts are completely based on real life experiences.  It's always important to me that the story takes place in real time. So if my Camino trip takes 22 days, Jamie's trip must now take 22 days. Because one theme that always pervades my books is that the adventures are entirely truthful and possible. The story is fictional but the traveling part is authentic. If you stood where I stood at that certain time and place, you would probably see what I saw. Maybe your conclusions would be completely different from mine but that's the wonderful mystery of traveling. However, the only way I can competently express my feelings for the exotic locations that are featured in my books are through my main character.

What was your favourite chapter to write and why?
Oh, the final one! And not just because it was the finale to my epic writing journey—but because it was so gratifying to see all the storylines and themes come together.

Because I outline everything, I know my beginning and my ending and everything in between. Now while the story evolves and I discover things along the way (especially how characters act and react to each other), the basic narrative remains intact....especially the ending.

I think about my ending much more than my beginning. The ending is often the first thing I write. Even if it’s only a paragraph or a few lines of dialogue, it sits there the entire time while I write everything else. Then when I reach that ending, I only have to tweak it. If I don’t have my ending, I don’t start writing! So when I reached the final moments of writing Shadows, Shells, and Spain, I could stare at my ending, and I knew I didn't have to completely change anything in my story structure. (However, of course, there was still a lot of work to be done in the subsequent drafts...)

How important are the names in your book?
Apart from the main character, all the main characters are named after people I met during the research phase of my Camino book. That's true of all my books. None only does the practice make it easier to name my characters but it also serves as a nice reminder of all the wonderful people I've met on the road.

Pamela is named after the woman who helped me come up with the title of the book (see below). Brie is named after a lovely woman I met in a Miami airport bar on my way to Madrid. Ronald is named after a San Francisco man I met on the Camino trail who regaled us with stories during some of our congregative pilgrim dinners. And Jamie is simply a modern modification of St. James whose dead bones inspired the entire ancient pilgrimage in the first place.

How did you come up with the title?
All my books contain an alliteration indicating the book's themes or settings along with the prime location of the story. (Bullets, Butterflies, and Italy: the threat of violence, the first stirrings of new love, and, well, Italy) (Bulls, Bands, and London: the running of the bulls in Pamplona, the love of Britpop music from the main characters, and, well, London).

So in Shadows, Shells, and Spain, I immediately had the prime location and one of the main symbols of the Camino (the shell). But I didn't have that third piece of the puzzle.

On the final morning of my journey, I was following this lone woman and casting long shadows as I walked the remaining miles towards Santiago de Compostela. When I passed her, she sighed, "Thank goodness. I was tired of trying to escape your shadow." A few minutes later, it hit me. I could use the word, "shadow," to encapsulate one of my book's major themes: that your troubled past can often hold you back as you try to advance to a happier future. Shadows and Shells: now there's some perfect alliteration!

Once I wrote that title in my notebook, I waited for that woman down the road and told her, "You just helped me name my book." Once I fully explained myself, she smiled and marched on. "What's your name?" "Pamela. But my friends call me Pam." And that's when I named my main female character.

Do you have a day job as well?
I'm fortunate enough that my day job is also a writing job. I'm the studio writer of Entertainment Tonight Canada (the TV cousin of America's Entertainment Tonight) and have been ever since the show launched back in the summer of 2005.

It compliments my author life. During the day, I have to write quickly about pop culture. At night and on the weekends, I can create my own stories and write to my heart's content in a longer art form.

Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans?
Whether you read my new book or not, I really encourage everyone to walk the Camino at some point in their lives. It really does inspire you and gives you plenty of time to contemplate your life while you meet many other friendly, likeminded souls marching across Spain—just like you! Sure, you can contemplate your life while sitting on your couch as well but... only by leaving all your distractions behind can you really experience some form of positive growth. Plus you're going to lose a lot of weight! And that's a pretty good deal too...

John Meyer
Shadows, Shells, and Spain
To get your own paperback or ebook copies from the author visit:
(also available at,, Kobo, Nook, Apple, and other ebook providers).
To learn more about the Camino: www.

John Meyer writes fictional travel memoirs—unique adventure stories that combine fun facts of history with present-day drama and humor—always revolving around a fictitious love story and always based on his own thrilling journeys. His previous publication, Bullets, Butterflies, and Italy, was selected as a November Best Book by Chatelaine magazine. Meyer is also the studio writer for Entertainment Tonight Canada and has been ever since the popular daily show launched back in 2005.

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John Meyer will be awarding a $25 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

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John Meyer writes fictional travel memoirs—unique adventure stories that combine fun facts of history with present-day drama and humor—always revolving around a fictitious love story and always based on his own thrilling journeys. His previous publication, Bullets, Butterflies, and Italy, was selected as a November Best Book by Chatelaine magazine. Meyer is also the studio writer for Entertainment Tonight Canada and has been ever since the popular daily show launched back in 2005.

Tour Organised by: Goddess Fish Promotions